By Harry Russell.
The ancient era, a time of the birth of peoples, nations, leaders and civilisations. These have stood the test of time through their modern counter parts or fantastical writings of ancient historians. I would like to think of the ancient era as one of some of the greatest civilisation the world has ever seen including the Persians, Romans, Greeks, Han Chinese, Mauryans and Egyptians.
However much like today whilst there are many strong and great countries not all are on equal footing with a few being so called ‘super-powers’. It is these ‘super-powers’ of the ancient world I would like to discuss, the civilisation that laid the foundations of modern nations and existed on a scale no other peoples ever had on the earth previously. These civilisations would include the Persians, Han Chinese, Mauryans and Romans.
The Persians were a civilisation that dominated the middle east accumulating the second largest land empire of the ancient era of 5,500,000 Kilometres squared lasting for over 200 years from 550 – 330 B.C. However, this is not what made the Persians a great civilisation, their staggering culture and military can also not be understated. Their state religion of Zoroastrianism was of great importance and still has followers to this day largely in modern day India. They have also become renowned for their battles with the Greeks such as those of Thermopylae and Marathon. They are also famed for being one of the first truly multicultural empires holding lands from Ethiopia to the Crimean Peninsula.
The Persians the Romans had a vast empire that stretched across many different cultures, religions and ideologies, and they used their military conscription service and requirements to be a citizen as ways of controlling these regions and their people. The Romans are also famed due classical art and culture such as the books of Virgil and many others. But the Romans were not as advanced culturally or scientifically compared to the eastern powers of the world at the time such as the Persians, Parthians and Han Chinese. However, an area in which Rome can be said to have been truly unparalleled for a time, was their military might. Their superior tactics, equipment and manpower meant that they rarely lost battles, however, this was not enough to stop the once great emperors descending into madness and power struggles that lead to the fracturing and collapse of the empire.
The Han dynasty in China, had the largest and longest lasting empire of this period of history extending for over 6,000,000 Kilo meters squared and lasting over 400 years. The people of China as we know it today continually fractured and re-united under different dynasties throughout its history, possibly due to the common language and culture of the people, unlike the Roman empire which would never fully reform. The Han were also masters of invention with modern day paper, sun dials and even early version of earth quake detectors bring invented there. But perhaps the most well know aspects of ancient China in the modern day, the great wall of China and the Silk road, both came to fruition under the Han. The great wall was united and extended to protect new western provinces from roaming nomads. These new western provinces also lead to contact between the Persians, along with other middle eastern powers, and the Chinese leading to the opening of the silk road which would endure for much of the Han dynasty. The Han dynasty is regarded as so key in the history of China that today the Chinese word for a person of Chinese ethnicity is Han. The Han dynasty’s military is not famed for being extremely strong however, its forces were effective in keeping marauders at bay and helping to conquer provinces in Thailand and Mongolia.
The Mauryans are key in the idea of united India, they were the first major power to rise in India and dominate most of the sub-continent. Although only lasting for around 200 years the empire was extremely powerful and was a flourishing time for the arts and religion. Buddhism came to prominence under the Mauryans, whilst Hinduism and Jainism was still influential. Notable works were produced in India during this period such as Ashoka’s Pillars. The Mauryans military was the strongest in India and constantly dealt with internal turmoil, external threats and conquests.
In conclusion, each of the discussed dynasties had strengths and weaknesses, and all were certainly great empires that exceeded other empires of the ancient era. Yet, to pick one as the best does not come without great consideration, and I would argue that the Han dynasty, had the size, longevity, culture, impact and military might. It was unlike anything that had come before, and so it could be said that they had the greatest civilisation of the ancient era.
Harry Russell is an a-level student studying history, politics and psychology and is an aspiring writer and author and has written in number of areas including history, politics and creative writing. He can be found @HarryRussell27 on twitter and contacted on email at firstname.lastname@example.org